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James Hansen: “I Struggle to Sleep” (with current energy trends, energy policy)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- August 26, 2014

“Events are spiraling down so rapidly that I struggle to sleep…. Ironically, environmental groups’ insistence that renewables are the only alternative to fossil fuels actually assures expansion of fracking, locking in long-term dependence on gas for electricity, and crude oil for vehicles.”

– James Hansen, “The Energy to Fight Injustice,” August 20, 2014.

James Hansen is “nauseous” about Beijing’s “impenetrable smog”—fair enough. China needs to use off-the-shelf technology to clean up its their coal fleet, one plant at a time (as done in the U.S.).

Hansen is “troubled” about “the injustice” of climate change—highly debatable. The doctor’s own prognostications about global warming have been falsified and again (along with many others). [1] The warming of the 1990s was due to natural factors, not only anthropogenic ones, the latest science suggests. The current “pause”—fifteen years going on twenty—should interject humility into all climate scientists’ thinking, Hansen included.

And Hansen “struggle[s] to sleep” because there does not seem to be the political appetite in the U.S. and around the world for a massive carbon tax (‘fee and dividend’) regime to radically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (not to mention methane and other man-made greenhouse gases).

“Events are spiraling down so rapidly that I struggle to sleep,” he states, adding (peculiarly): “Declining production and rising costs of conventional oil are making it commercially viable to extract unconventional fossil fuels, such as shale gas and tar sands, that should be left in the ground.”

Declining output/rising cost of one fossil fuel inspiring increasing output and falling costs for other types of fossil fuels  whereby the total supply increases? Dr. Hansen, Welcome to the world of mineral economics and the ultimate resource of human ingenuity increasing the master resource of energy.

Nuclear or Bust, for Hansen

“Ironically,” Hansen goes on to state, “environmental groups’ insistence that renewables are the only alternative to fossil fuels actually assures expansion of fracking, locking in long-term dependence on gas for electricity, and crude oil for vehicles.”

Indeed, the economic and political problems of nuclear have stymied any serious talk about a carbon tax ‘getting prices right’ with a fee-and-dividend. But Hansen hopes eternal for an unencumbered nuclear future—and rails against Big Environmentalism in the process.

“The enormity of these anti-nuclear policy decisions is difficult to exaggerate. Energy consumption is an inescapable requirement of development, and renewable energy sources alone cannot satisfy the energy demands of China and other developing nations. They now have no choice but to burn massive amounts of coal if they wish to raise their living standards.”

And …

“[A]nti-nuclear forces in politics and ‘green’ organisations eliminated this opportunity – the project was stopped by President Jimmy Carter. Research continued at a low level until 1993 when President Bill Clinton delivered the coup de grace, declaring ‘We are eliminating programs that are no longer needed, such as nuclear power research and development.’”

Central-station solar power is expensive window dressing compared to nuclear according to Hansen’s math.

“[T]he new US solar power plant, Ivanpah, near the Nevada–California border, which cost $2.2 billion (£1.28 billion) and covers 13km2, will generate 0.82TWh of electricity per year. In contrast, Westinghouse is nearing completion of two AP-1000 nuclear plants in China. These nuclear facilities each require about 1.3km2 and cost China about $3.5 billion. Each plant will produce 8.8TWh per year. It would take more than 10 Ivanpahs to yield as much electricity and an area of more than 128km2.”

A New Beginning?

If James Hansen finds himself at wit’s end, there is an alternative to staring at the ceiling at night with the lights out. Turn on the lights, welcome the bit of CO2 therein, and … READ ALEX EPSTEIN’S NEW BOOK THE MORAL CASE FOR FOSSIL FUELS (advance copies available).

Conventional wisdom says fossil fuels are an unsustainable form of energy that is destroying our planet,” the back cover of Epstein’s new book begins.

But Alex Epstein shows that if we look at the big picture, the much-hated fossil fuel industry is dramatically improving our planet by making it a far safer and richer place.

The key difference between a healthy and unhealthy environment, Epstein argues, is development—the transformation of nature to meet human needs. And the energy required for development is overwhelmingly made possible by the fossil fuel industry, the only way to produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy on a global scale.

While acknowledging the challenges of fossil fuels (and every form of energy), Epstein maintains the at the overall benefits, including the largely ignored environmental benefits, are incomparably greater.

Dr. Hansen, consider this a polite invitation to change your mind—and get a lot more good sleep!


[1] Anthony Watts collection of quotations on failed warming predictions from alarmist scientists included these two from Hansen:

104. 2008 Dr. James Hansen of the Goddard Space Institute (NASA) on a visit to Britain: “The recent warm winters that Britain has experienced are a sign that the climate is changing.”

[Two exceptionally cold winters followed. The 2009-10 winter may be the coldest experienced in the UK since 1683.]


105. June 11, 1986, Dr. James Hansen of the Goddard Space Institute (NASA) in testimony to Congress (according to the Milwaukee Journal): “Hansen predicted global temperatures should be nearly 2 degrees higher in 20 years, ‘which is about the warmest the earth has been in the last 100,000 years.’”


Appendix: Related Hansen Posts at MasterResource

Hansen Warns Against ‘Cap-and-Tax’ (Steyer and California, are you listening?) (August 4, 2014)

Hansen to Obama/EPA: State Renewable Credits, Cap-and-Trade Are Special-Interest, Ineffectual GHG Mitigation Policies (June 2, 2014)

James Hansen: Still More Good Energy Realism (just ignore his climate alarmism, world fee-and-dividend fix) (March 18, 2014)

Game, Set, Match Fossil Fuels? James Hansen Sleepless in Ningbo” (March 13, 2014)

Energy Realism Amid Climate Alarmism: James Hansen Rides Again (February 25, 2014)

Is the Environmental Movement Net CO2 Positive? (James Hansen wants to know) (February 24, 2014)

California Cap-and-Trade Cronyism: James Hansen Weighs In (December 21, 2012)


One Comment for “James Hansen: “I Struggle to Sleep” (with current energy trends, energy policy)”

  1. Ed Reid  

    If Dr. Hansen is following the current science, he should actually be able to sleep easier. He is already aware that the model outputs he presented to the Congress in the now infamous “warm hearing room trick” have been falsified. He should also be aware that the outputs of most other GCMs have also been falsified; and, that there is growing concern about the “adjustments” made to the surface temperature record.

    At this moment, it would appear that the most vocal climate change “denier” is good old Mother Gaea herself, unless of course you believe that the GCMs are accurate and the data are in error.


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